Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hiroshima Part 3

Our last day in Hiroshima was quite short. Since we only had half a day, we decided to go to the nearby city of Onomichi, which is known for its large collection of temples and shrines.


Also at the top of the mountain was a hiking course. Along the course were several boulders with poems carved into them.

After the tiring climbing, we decided to go back down the mountain. First, though, we had to pay our respects to the stationmaster...

Of course it's a cat. This is Japan.
After descending the mountain, we set off to find lunch. It was very easy to figure out what we were going to eat; this town is well known around Japan for its Onomichi ramen.

The ramen did not stand a chance against me.
And so it was time for us to go back. We got our luggage and headed to Hiroshima station to catch our Shinkansen back home.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hiroshima Part 2

Last time, I left off on a somber note. This time though, back to the usual, cheery adventuring!

Dinner that night was the famous Hiroshima okonomiyaki! If you don't know what okonomiyaki is...

then you have not yet truly lived.
Go to Japan. Eat some. It's delicious, I promise. I usually eat Osaka style okonomiyaki, so this was  a first for me too. Even after devouring it, however, I am still not exactly sure how they are different... (I too still have much to learn)

After stuffing ourselves silly, we took a leisurely walk along the river back to the hotel, where we turned in for the night.

The next morning started with breakfast on the top floor of the hotel, from which there was a spectacular view.

Overlooking Peace Memorial Park

On the river right below us, there was a floating restaurant boat that has been in business all the way since the Keio Era (1865-1868!) Unfortunately, since it only serves oysters, and only three out of five of us liked oysters, we did not go there to eat.

Instead, we quickly took a streetcar to go get a rental car, and started the hour-long journey to Miyajima, the shrine island. After a quick ferry to the island, we found ourselves promptly greeted by the sight of dozens of deer wandering the streets. What are deer doing in a place like this, you ask?

Deer deer
Well, Miyajima, or Itsukushima was viewed as a sacred island where only the most devout were allowed to set foot. Deer, however, were considered to be the messengers of the Shinto gods, so they were allowed to roam freely around the island. It's a similar situation as in Nara, where there are also many shrines and temples.

Miyajima is known most famously for it's "floating" shrine and torii. While at low tide, you can walk right up to the big red torii, at high tide it appears to be floating on the water.

Insert Heroic Pose Here
Sorry about the finger smudge.

Throughout history, commoners would steer their boats through the torii, and to the shrine. The shrine itself is also built on stilts over the water. This is so that commoners could come pray as well, without ever actually setting foot on the sacred island.

Incredibly beautiful
We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant. Hiroshima is known for its anago (a type of eel), so we decided to eat that. It was very good! I forgot to take a picture before devouring it...

So here is my sister and her meal instead
Miyajima also has a very nice aquarium. Since it was still early afternoon, and the weather was very hot out, we decided to go check it out. As well as the many schools of fish on display, there was also a very large tank full of oysters.

On the large list of foods that Hiroshima is well known for, oysters are very prominent. On the ferry into the island, I had noticed that there were many floating rafts. Apparently, those rafts were supporting strings of oysters like this one above. Did you know?: oysters have the ability to take in dirty water and expel clean water. This might help in future ecological projects...

There were also dolphins! They were adorable (anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love whales and dolphins.) I did not get any pictures, but I did get a video (well, many videos).

I was also able to pet a penguin!

He was very sleek.

After finishing our adventures at the aquarium, we decided to take another food break. I finally was able to try the famous Hiroshima yakigaki (grilled oysters)!

A drop of lemon, a dash of sauce...absolutely delicious

This yummy snack was swiftly followed by another at a tea shop, where we also dined on green tea flavored shaved ice. Mine was covered in sweet condensed milk, and had mochi balls on the side.

Perfect Japanese dessert for a hot day. 
With this, we wrapped up our day at Miyajima, and took the ferry back to our rental car. After getting back to the hotel, we took a short break, and then decided to go eat...again. (Remember, a significant portion of traveling is about enjoying the food!)
Dinner that night was at an izakaya near where we had okonomiyaki the night before. I'd describe an izakaya as a somewhat kid-friendly bar that serves great food. This way, the adults got to drink good beer and everybody got to eat more awesome Hiroshima delicacies. I apologize because I once again devoured the food before remembering to take a picture.

The walk back to the hotel once again took us alongside the river. The lights on the bridge were very pretty.

Hiroshima Part 1

My trip to Hiroshima started with my family dragging me in the very early morning to Ebina station.

It was too early in the morning for me to show my face, so here is my sister's instead.

From there, we rode various trains until we arrived at Shin-Yokohama station. It is at this station that we got on to the famed bullet train that took us across across the country of Japan. (After buying bento boxes of course)

Finding the right timing to take this picture was quite difficult.

What I love about riding the Shinkansen (bullet train) is that the view outside is usually quite pretty. Mountains, rivers, rice paddies, cities...and then the occasional tunnel (which on the other hand, is quite boring.) I had looked forward to seeing Mt. Fuji, as it was a beautiful sunny day out, but alas, it was not to be. Japan's extreme humidity allowed clear visibility for a couple miles, but no more than that. 

There MAY be mountains in the distance. Or they could be sleeping giants.
The aforementioned bento box was incredibly delicious. Unfortunately, I had stuffed myself too full with snacks to finish it. (Silly me)
And thus I learned the unfairness of life.
Nagoya and Kyoto passed by in a flash, and I suddenly found myself in the very hot and humid city of Hiroshima. We quickly checked into the hotel, which happened to be a minute's walk away from Peace Memorial Park. Since we were all quite tired already by the long train ride, we decided to take it fairly easy and just visit the park.

Our visit started with the Peace Memorial Museum. It was...intense.
The first part of the museum started with the overall view of the events leading up to the the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Around the wall were plaques describing Hiroshima and how it grew as a city. In the middle of the room were two to-scale dioramas of the city. One showed before the bombing, and the other showed after. The difference was stunning. Approximately 90% of the building were destroyed, leaving only destruction. Also in the middle of the room was an almost-to-scale representation of the all that was left of the top of the A-bomb Dome; one of the only buildings left standing after the explosion.

The main part of the museum showed the after-effect on the people of Hiroshima. It showed many incinerated trinkets and clothing that were left behind by those who died. The shocking fact was that most of them belonged to middle school students. For many of them, those items were the only recognizable things ever found by loved ones.

Nothing I say will give it anywhere near the same power as it should. This is something that everybody should go to see for him- or herself.

Elsewhere in Peace Memorial Park was the Children's Peace Monument. Shown at the top holding a paper crane is Sadako Sasaki, the girl who folded paper cranes in the hope that when she folded a thousand, her wish to recover from bombing-induced leukemia would come true. Surrounding the monument are clear sheds full of paper cranes folded around the world, many of them arranged to show the image of 'peace'.

After strolling around the park, we stopped by the (real) A-bomb Dome. The skeletal ruins of the building still stand as they did after the bombing. 

So that this may never happen again.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

First Step Abroad: Back Home in Japan

Welcome to my travel blog of 2013! My name is Miki, and I am a mechanical engineering student (or MechE) at Carnegie Mellon University. I love to travel so I took the awesome opportunity to study abroad in Hong Kong for the fall semester. Before my adventures in Hong Kong start, however, I have decided to take a few weeks to visit my family in Japan.

I'd like to say that my first week outside of the United States was full of adventures and new sights galore, but it was mostly spent fixing my jetlag and hanging out with my mom and sister. This included catching up on  a few of my favorite Japanese game shows, eating a ton of delicious food, and lazing around my hometown of Ebina.

The following weekend, however, we decided to take a small trip to Yokohama. Yokohama is the capital city of Kanagawa prefecture, and is about an hour south of Tokyo. I used to go to school there, and so have spent quite a lot of time wandering the port, shopping districts and Chinatown.

 Our purpose this time was to go see the well-preserved 39000 year old mammoth Yuka. I'd seen an article about it a month ago and knew I had to go see it. So I dragged my family along. I unfortunately don't have many photos, but I do have a badly-shot, and badly-edited video at the end of this post. (It's my first time making a video; I'll try and get better!)

The mammoth exhibit was very cool. It compared and contrasted the mammoths with the living elephants of today. It also explored the various relationships between the mammoths and the environment, humans, and other animals of its time. The mammoth itself was in surprisingly good condition. It still had its skin and fur, and most of its body was very well preserved from time, scavengers and the environment.

Once we had finished with the exhibit, we decided it would be a waste to just go back we went to the Cup Noodle Museum. My sister and I had quite a bit of fun taking pictures...

The best thing about this museum was definitely making our own unique instant noodle cups (also shown in the video). We ate them the next day (Yum).

The day finished up with shopping for dinner, which was "make your own sushi rolls" dinner. (Again, yum).

Never Give Up!